Mexico's Violence Packs Capitol Hill's Agenda

Latin America and the Caribbean

Recent news stories such as "Mexican cartels plague Atlanta" and "Mexican cartels infiltrate Houston" bring home the idea that Mexican drug violence is having an effect on the United States. Coupled with the statements made by key Administration officials last week on increased cooperation with and aid for Mexico, stories such as these show that everyone is paying more attention to Mexico. In addition to the comments made by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanel (see last week's blog post), the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen joined the ranks last week and reported on possibilities for increased cooperation. On Friday, Adm. Mullen spoke with President Obama about "the situation in Mexico and the military capabilities that could assist the country", according to a Department of Defense press release. Adm. Mullen had just returned from a trip to Mexico, where he met with Mexican Secretary of National Defense Gen. Guillermo Galvan and Secretary of the Navy Adm. Mariano Francisco Saynez. New levels of concern about the violence on the border and its potential impact on the United States can also be seen on Capitol Hill, where five hearings will be held on the subject over the next two weeks - four of them this week. The hearings (which are listed below) will cover everything from the Mérida Initiative and U.S. aid to the region to the Department of Homeland Security's response to the United States' role in fueling the violence through arms smuggling and demand for drugs. That so many different committees would hold similar hearings simultaneously indicates a surge of concern about Mexico and the United States' role. What will be interesting, however, is the tone that these hearings will take - and the solutions that the witnesses and Members of Congress propose. Upcoming Hearings: Senate: U.S.-Mexico Border Violence Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee March 25, 342 Dirksen Building, Time TBA Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (Chairman Lieberman, I-Conn) will hold a hearing on the national and homeland security consequences of violence along the U.S. border. A similar hearing will be held in Arizona on a future date in April. House The Mérida Initiative March 10, 10 am, 2362-A Rayburn Bldg. State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee (Chairwoman Lowey, D-NY) of the House Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on the Mérida Initiative. The Mérida Initiative, which provides financial aid and other assistance to Mexico, is an element in a broader strategy of growing cooperation between the United States and Mexico to address a shared threat presented by organized crime involved in drug trafficking. Witnesses: Thomas Shannon, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs David Johnson, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement Rodger Garner, Mission Director for Mexico, United States Agency for International Development Lisa Haugaard, Executive Director, Latin American Working Group Joy Olson, Director of the Washington Office of Latin Ameica Ana Paula Hernandez, General Director of the Colectivo por una Politica Integral hacia las Drogas U.S.-Mexico Border Violence March 10, 11:30 am, 2358-C Rayburn Bldg. Homeland Security Subcommittee (Chairman Price, D-NC) of House Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on the Department of Homeland Security's response to violence on the U.S.-Mexico border. Witnesses include: Mark Koumans - deputy assistant secretary of Homeland Security for INternational Affairs Jayson Ahern - deputy commissioner, Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Marcy Forman - director, Office on Investigations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS David Aguilar - chief, U.S. Border Patrol Border Violence: An Examination of DHS Strategies and Resources March 12, 10 am, 311 Cannon Bldg. Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee (Chairman Sanchez, D-CA) of House Homeland Security Committee The hearing will examine Department of Homeland Security resources and strategies for combating and responding to violence (and related issues such as narcotics trafficking, weapons smuggling, and bulk cash smuggling) in the U.S.-Mexico border region. Witnesses: Vice Admiral Roger T. Rufe Jr. (USCG Ret), Director, Office of Operations Coordination, DHS Alonzo Peña, Department of Homeland Security Attaché, U.S. Embassy, Mexico John Leech, Acting Director, Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement, DHS Money, Guns, and Drugs: Are U.S. Inputs Fueling Violence on the U.S.-Mexico Border? March 12, 10 am, 2154 Rayburn Bldg. National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee (Chairman Tierney, D-MA) of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee